Months of research on alternative cancer therapies had made me realise that there were ways of combatting health problems by supporting the body with ‘natural’ substances that had few if any bad side effects and had also started me on a very healthful diet.
Having decided to go ahead with chemotherapy I was still wary of reverting back to a less healthy version of myself for an unknown benefit. After three months of testing, no new cancer could be found in my body. At the age of 46, I was looking and feeling the best I had in years. Wishing to avoid ageing myself prematurely and to avoid some of the more onerous but non-life-threatening side effects like nerve damage, led me to try to find ways of mitigating the side effects of the chemotherapy.
Integrative medicine / complementary therapies
I had read a little about complimentary therapies for cancer, meaning chemotherapy or radiation, combined with less invasive or more natural therapies. These programs were often run by naturopaths and oncologists working in unison. There were none of these programs for chemotherapy in Cairns. Then I discovered the term Naturopathic Oncology.
Naturopathic Oncolgists provide evidence-informed guidance on the safe and effective use of natural and supportive therapies, when combined with conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
There was even evidence that some supplements could make the chemotherapy more effective or give terminal patients longer lives!
A systematic approach to determine the best complementary therapy
Wouldn’t it be nice to make the chemotherapy more effective and safer? My research now focused on this new area. The steps involved were:
Step 1: Determine the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs docetaxal and carboplatin.
Step 2: Find nutrients that could prevent or reverse those side effects.
Step 3: Add nutrients that had the most evidence of anti-cancer properties.
Step 4: Work out if there are interactions between the nutrients above and the chemotherapy drugs.
Step 5: Produce the smallest list of substances to cover all bases.
Step 1: Side effects of the chemotherapy drugs
My best weapons were:
(a) “The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing” a book by Lise Alschuler & Karolyn A. Gazella. This book contains a section for each major type of cancer and has information on:
- the specific drugs I was going to take and other chemotherapy drugs;
- their side effects;
- natural substances that might prevent those side effects;
- as well as showing the level of evidence for the these nutrients
(b) The information put out by the drug companies for medical practitioners (I have a recollection that the information for patients glossed over some of the side effects.)
(c) Breast cancer patient forums.
(d) This website was great – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer guide to Herbs and Botanicals (MSKCC)
A decorated nutritional biochemist, Henry Osiecki is passionate about the role of nutrients in health and educating people on the importance of good food.
This book is useful for general living, not just advice on mitigating the side effects of chemotherapy
Step 2: Nutrients to prevent side-effects of chemotherapy drugs
In this step I also included nutrients that might make the chemo more effective and a few nutrients that had a lot of evidence of their anti-cancer properties. With my list of side-effects ready my best weapons were:
(a) “The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing”, above.
(b) Visiting a naturopath in Cairns by the name of Jude Friesen.
(c) “The Nutrient Bible” eighth edition by Henry Osiecki.
(d) Telephone conversations with Victor Trosky, the retired microbiologist and nutritionist mentioned previously.
(e) Some of the best websites I found were also used later in my research for Vitamin Inspector. View them here: https://vitamin-inspector.com/resources-and-help.
(f) Reports on clinical trials.
Steps 3 and 4: Side effects + supplements
Step 3 resulted in a spreadsheet with a column for each side effect or aim (such as protecting the heart) and a row for each supplement or food that might mitigate against the side effect or help in an aim.
In Step 4, I discovered that it was very hard to know what exactly the interactions would be between these nutrients and the chemotherapy drugs. The information from clinical trials was quite sparse. There was a little information for a few supplements but not much at all.
I emailed the list to the pharmacy at the Oncology Centre in Cairns to see if they knew about the interactions. They told me that they did not know what the interactions would be.
Record of supplements I took during the last week of a 3 weekly chemo cycle of carbolplatin and docetaxel
Note: The shaded squares were my intentions. A cross was recorded when I actually took the supplement
Step 5: The supplement regime
Subsequently, one of the oncologists I visited at the Cairns Base Hospital informed me that one reason for the three-weekly cycle, was to let the chemotherapy drugs take effect for two weeks and then have a week in recovery before another round of chemo. Armed with Lise Alschuler’s book and lots of reading of clinical trials I had some grip on what might interfere with the chemo and what might be helpful.
My “bet both ways” was to take minimal supplements and let the chemo drugs take effect for two weeks and then hit the nutrients hard in the last week of the round.
Well I am still here more than 7 years later. That’s the best news :-).
In the end the chemotherapy was not as bad as I had first anticipated. It wasn’t fun and wore me down as the process continued but not one meal was missed during the whole process. The drugs for nausea taken for the few days of the round would have played a big part. As far as I am aware I have not suffered from any serious long-term side effects from chemotherapy. This is evidenced by:
- Coming out of menopause a year later. This was unexpected as I had been told by multiple medical staff at the hospital that most women my age (46 years) went into chemo-induced menopause and did not come out.
- No peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage. The icy gloves on the hands given to me by the nurses during docetaxel administration should have helped too.
- No arthritis.
- This experience led me to creating a new technology called Vitamin Inspector which compares multi-vitamins nutritionally.
Shop for the nutrients on my list
(These are the ones I took on the third week of a 3-weekly chemotherapy cycle consisting of carboplatin and docetaxel (TC). Most are available from iHerb but a couple of them are USANA)
View supplements available from iHerb
Most of the supplements I took are available from iHerb. The order button will take you to a list that includes the following:
- Aloe Vera Juice
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Barley Grass powder
- Broccoli Sprout powder
- Calcium with Vitamin D and magnesium
- CoQ10 with BioPerine
- Organic flax seeds to grind and add to soups or drinks
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin E with mixed tocopherols
- Quercetin with Bromelain (NB: Quercetin can interfere with taxane drugs so I was sure only to take it after the chemo drugs had done their work.)
View supplements available from USANA
- Body Rox – it was recommended to me by a nutritionist and microbiologist
- BioOmega III – is a potent Omega III supplement. Keep it in the refrigerator.
Have you got a different type of cancer or are you on different chemo drugs?
This book, has a section on each of these cancers:
- bladder, bone, brain, breast, cervical, colon, esophageal, gastric, head and neck, kidney, leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, liver, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, sarcoma, skin cancer, melanoma, testicular, thyroid, uterine.
This book has information on the following drugs:
- carboplatin, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, etoposide, fluorouracil, floxuridine, capcetibine, gemcitabine, irinotecan, methotrexate, oxaliplatin, paclitaxel, docetaxel, topotecan, vinblastine, vincristine
Visit Vitamin Inspector to see my subsequent work on nutrients
Health Advice Warning
The information in this website is intended for personal interest and educational purposes. It has not been approved by the FDA and should not be construed as health advice. Read more…